Disease Already Existing In The Body

For instance, tubercles and other tumours, structural lesions of the heart and other organs, often induce irritations or obstructions of blood-vessels, which, if not themselves causing open disease, render them ripe for disorder from other causes. Thus, a person on the occasion of violent bodily or vocal exertion, is seized with profuse spitting of blood, which causes his death; on opening the body many tubercles are found in the lungs, although there had been no obvious symptom of their existence before the violent effort.

Hereditary Tendency To Disease

It is well known that Scrofula, Gout, Rheumatism, Epilepsy, Mania, Asthma, Blindness and Deafness run in families. But every child does not necessarily contract the disease; many appear to be altogether exempt. Sometimes a whole generation is passed over and a disease appears in a third. A person will have gout, perhaps for the first time, when he is forty or fifty years of age. His son, if he lives very abstemiously, may possibly not have it at all, but, if he is a free liver, he will probably get it on attaining the same age.


The Sanguine Temperament is accompanied with clear skin and rosy cheek, an excitable pulse, quick movements and lively disposition. This temperament gives a disposition to inflammation, determination of blood and active hemorrhage. The Phlegmatic or Lymphatic Temperament is the reverse of the Sanguine; it occurs in those with weak pulse and languid circulation, cold extremities and pale skin. The liability is to watery fluxes, dropsy and other chronic affections. The Bilious or Melancholic Temperament is commonly met with in persons of dark complexion and gloomy disposition. The Nervous Temperament predisposes to those disorders termed nervous, such as hysteria, nervous pains, spasms, etc.


Age may be divided into Childhood-or the age from infancy to puberty-Puberty, Adult Age, and Old Age. In childhood the functions most active are those which administer to growth; the organs of digestion and assimilation are therefore liable to disorder: hence children are liable to derangements of the stomach and bowels, worms, remittent fevers, etc.

At Puberty the child springs, as it were, almost suddenly from childhood into manhood. The change, however, is more apparent in the female than in the male sex. At the approach and commencement of puberty the glandular system is extremely liable to congestions and inflammations, and it is about this age that so much mischief is done by undue muscular exertions and exposures to cold, damp, and night air.

Adult Age can hardly be said to predispose to any diseases, unless it be those arising from particular modes of life. It is commonly a period of steadier health, because the functions are more evenly balanced; but, if the mode of life be unfavourable, bad habits are apt to become established, and by their continuance to induce disease. Thus gout, gravel, rheumatism, indigestion, and various other disorders, are apt to occur in middle life, because the predisposition to them is gradually engendered by some error, in diet or regimen, too slight to excite disease, but sufficient by accumulation to dispose to it, on the addition of an exciting cause.

As age advances, such habits affect the organization, and accelerate those changes in the system, by which our existence is limited to a span of years. The changes which old age induces in the exterior of the body shows a failure of those functions which are active in youth. Instead of the muscles, fat and integuments being nourished in the equal proportions that give beauty as well as strength to the form in mature life, the muscles become thin and sinewy; fat becomes scanty, partial or in excess; the integuments are loose and wrinkled, or fat and flabby; the joints stiffen, and the gait loses its firmness and uprightness. Old age is thus attended with increasing infirmities and liabilities to disease. The very strength and activity that some functions retain, may, from their very partiality, endanger life, and their gradual and more equal failure degrades the physical and often the mental frame of man to a lower scale of existence, until he sinks into second childhood, dotage and imbecility.


The male sex is remarkable for the higher development of the muscular system, with a corresponding strength of frame; for the stronger impulses of the animal passions, and for a greater endowment of the reasoning faculty. These respectively bring with them a liability to suffer from diseases of the muscles, limbs. joints, heart, and great vessels; from the evils contingent on undue indulgence of passion or appetite; and from disorders of the brain and its intellectual functions.

In the female sex, the predominant bodily functions are the nutritive and the sensitive; while the perceptive and instinctive faculties and moral emotions preponderate in the mind. Hence the greater proneness of females to changes in flesh and blood; to disordered sensation, spasms, convulsive and other affections of the spinal system; and to the direct and indirect consequences of the indulgence or thwarting of instinctive and moral feelings.


Occupation comprises many circumstances already noticed under the heads of predisposing influences. Thus sedentary occupations include want of exercise, and sometimes impure air; laborious employments operate as excessive exertion; other occupations may predispose to disease by the continued exposure to heat or cold which they occasion. Some employments require constrained postures, which, if insufficient to induce, may yet promote the occurrence of disease; thus engravers and watchmakers are liable to affections of the head from holding the head low; shoemakers and tailors are subject to disorders of the stomach from their stooping forward at their work. In many other instances, occupations induce disease rather by exposing the individuals to the exciting causes, than by inducing a pre-disposition; but, the very circumstances which, in great intensity, sufficed to excite disease, in a lower degree may only induce a disposition to derangement. Thus the slow introduction of lead into the system, occurring in the occupations of painting, plumbing, card-enamelling and printing, may not cause colic until cold or irregularity of diet becomes an additional or exciting cause. The same remarks will apply to dry-grinding, needle-pointing, leather-dressing and other unhealthy occupations. An important element in the influence which employments have in causing disease, is the time during which they are pursued; thus, an occupation not in itself unhealthy, may become so when continued too many hours in the day; and a work which is attended with risk, may be often safely undertaken for short periods with a due amount of relaxation or diversion to another pursuit. By attention to this point, the injurious influences of occupations may be much lessened.